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Top 5 Overperforming Recruiting Classes

Every year, a new set of recruiting classes are ranked by many different media outlets; however, these recruiting classes are not always as successful as they should be. Not every recruiting class is created equal, yet there are many recruiting classes that are overlooked just because they are not filled with four- and five-star recruits. Sometimes, these classes end up being the best ones even though they didn’t seem to be at first. Here are five recruiting classes that overperformed their original expectations:

SEE ALSO: Top 5 Underperforming Recruiting Classes

*Note: Recruiting metrics are from 247 Sports

  1. 2011 Michigan State

  • National Rank: 32
  • Big Ten Rank: 7
  • Avg. Rating: .8576

The 2011 recruiting class marked a very important time for Michigan State. With Kirk Cousins going into his final season with the Spartans, they had to have a good enough recruiting class to sustain the success that the now-Minnesota Vikings QB had during his tenure in East Lansing. While this class only had one four-star recruit, former MSU head coach Mark Dantonio did a tremendous job of finding some diamonds in the rough. The Spartans had a decent year in 2012, compiling a 7-6 record; however, it was the following year where this class started to make its mark. Quarterback Connor Cook became one of the premier signal callers in the Big Ten, Shilique Calhoun became a stalwart on the defensive line along with a second-team All-American in 2013, and Trae Waynes became a tough corner to go up against for any receiver in the conference. All three of these players helped to bring the Spartans back to prominence, culminating in victories in both the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl in consecutive seasons. While Waynes left for the NFL draft following the Cotton Bowl victory in 2014, Cook and Calhoun were crucial players on MSU’s 2015 team that made the university’s first and only appearance in the College Football Playoff. Altogether, this recruiting class helped the Spartans go 43-11 from 2012 to 2015.

  1. 2017 Baylor

  • National Rank: 40
  • Big 12 Rank: 5
  • Avg. Rating: .8460

This recruiting class was actually slated to be one of the better ones in recent history for the Baylor Bears with Kellen Mond of Texas A&M and Baron Browning of Ohio State both committing to Baylor for a bit of time; however, as expected, many of the promising recruits in this class decommitted after the Art Briles scandal that shocked the college football world. Matt Rhule had a lot of work to do with only one player staying committed to the school when he got to Waco. Despite a rocky start that saw the Bears go 1-11 in Rhule’s first year, there were plenty of players that came out of this recruiting class who helped the Bears go 7-6 the following year and eventually almost got Baylor to its first-ever College Football Playoff appearance. The Bears ended up going 11-3 in the 2019 campaign with a berth in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia. Baylor got strong play from some players that weren’t heavily recruited by other schools. Charlie Brewer became a steady presence under center while James Lynch became the 2019 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Furthermore, the Bears boast two of the best linebackers in the Big 12 from this class in the forms of Jalen Pitre and Terrel Bernard who have both been nominated for the watchlists of prestigious defensive awards this preseason. Lastly, the Bears also brought in two running backs who made strong contributions to the offense and special teams with John Lovett and Trestan Ebner who was the Big 12 Special Teams POY in 2020. All of these players mentioned above were three-star recruits. There are even more players who have a chance to build off of solid 2020 campaigns from this class as well this upcoming season (RJ Sneed, Gavin Holmes, etc).

  1. 2014 N.C. State

  • National Rank: 34
  • ACC Rank: 7
  • Avg. Rating: .8444

N.C. State’s 2014 recruiting class may not fly under the radar any longer, but at the time it was not looked at as a top-tier class. Players like Bradley Chubb, Garrett Bradbury, Jaylen Samuels and Germaine Pratt were all three-star recruits for head coach Dave Doeren; however, these players would leave their marks on the Wolfpack and made the team into a very competitive one in the Atlantic Coast Conference. After a tough 3-9 campaign, the Wolfpack were able to land a commitment from Chubb, who only weighed 225 pounds at the time. He would go on to be one of the most impactful players for N.C. State during the 2010s. N.C. State didn’t get off to a fast start with this recruiting class as the Wolfpack had two consecutive 7-6 seasons before going 9-4 back-to-back years in 2017 and 2018. The 2017 season was particularly memorable as the Wolfpack were ranked as high as number 14 in the polls that season. This was also the season that saw Chubb turn into an extremely tough player to game plan against. The three other players in this class were also instrumental in N.C. State’s turnaround as Bradbury turned into the anchor of the Wolfpack’s line along with an eventual first-round pick, Germaine Pratt made the switch to linebacker and became a third-round pick, and Jaylen Samuels was best known for his versatility and strong play in the 2016 Independence Bowl with 6 receptions for 104 yards and 3 touchdowns.

  1. 2015 Wyoming

  • National Rank: 113
  • Mountain West Rank: 8
  • Avg. Rating: .7873

Wyoming football had long been at the basement of the Mountain West Conference in the 2000s and early 2010s. That all changed when head coach Craig Bohl took over. His first two seasons in Laramie were extremely tough as the Cowboys compiled a record of 6-18 in that span. That all changed with the integration of Wyoming’s 2015 class, headlined by now Buffalo Bills star QB Josh Allen. Along with Allen were wideout C.J. Johnson, safety Andrew Wingard and then wide receiver Logan Wilson. This recruiting class made an immediate impact on the program as the Cowboys went 8-6 during the 2016 season, including a berth in the Mountain West Conference Championship due to winning the MWC regular-season title. Allen would come back for another season that saw the Cowboys have another stellar season, going 8-5 with a win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Since this recruiting class stepped on campus, the Cowboys did not have a losing record for four straight campaigns. Wyoming had not had four or more consecutive .500 or above seasons since the span of 1993 to 1999. Wingard and Logan Wilson also turned into NFL players during this time with Wingard now playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Wilson being a promising linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals.

  1. 2017 Cincinnati

  • National Rank: 63
  • AAC Rank: 3
  • Avg. Rating: .8270

After former head coach Tommy Tuberville resigned from the university, Cincinnati was heading in a new direction with former Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. In order to be successful with the Bearcats, Fickell had to hit on his first recruiting class. Although it didn’t look like it was going to after a 2017 campaign that saw the school go 4-8, it certainly looks like Fickell did a tremendous job with this recruiting class. The 2017 class was headlined by three-star recruits Michael Warren and Jarrell White, but it was an under-the-radar quarterback who has stolen the show in recent memories. His name is Desmond Ridder. Following the 2017 season, the Bearcats have not looked back and have become one of the premier teams not only in the AAC, but in the country with Ridder under center. Furthermore, Warren and White both lived up to their high expectations with Warren becoming the 12th running back in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season along with being sixth all-time in rushing yards at Cincinnati while Jarrell White has become one of the leaders on the Bearcats’ defense. Expectations have never been higher for this program, especially after the Bearcats came extremely close to beating Georgia in the Peach Bowl last season. Had Fickell not hit on his very first recruiting class, it could have been a brief tenure at the school for the former Buckeye DC.